PlayStation 2 System Review

By: John Doe

You waited in line, perhaps even overnight, to get a system that you pre-ordered in the winter time. Maybe you were lucky enough to get your hands on one, and maybe you weren't. We've all heard the hype; but I am proud to say that although I looked forward to and welcomed the arrival of the PS2, I didn't let my emotions get away on me. I wanted to clear my head of all of the propaganda and rose colored mis-information that was being tossed around concerning how wonderful life was going to be with a PS2 and how terrible it would be without one. Is the PS2 all it's cracked up to be? Come on, you know you want to know that. Even if you are sitting at home, playing your PS2, admit it: You need to know that everything is alright in the world and that you made the right decision by selling enough blood to buy this latest gadget. Well, you had better sit down because I'm not going to handle this delicately. The people have a right to know whether the PS2 is worth sleepless nights over and panicky thoughts of "Will I get one for Christmas?"


It's no secret that Sony screwed up the launch. Whether you believe that they really did have a shortage of 500,000 PS2 units or whether you believe the conspiracy theory (Sony has the units and is trying to create demand and hype), two things are certain. 1) Sony succeeded in creating hype beyond anything like Tickle Me Elmo, 2) If you don't have a PS2 now, you won't be getting one anytime soon, unless you have copious amounts of cashola. And no Virginia, Santa Claus won't be bringing you one for Christmas, because he put all of his PS2 units on eBay.

To be honest with you dear reader, and if you are a regular reader of my material you know that I am not afraid to be honest. For example, I told you of how I cried as a child when I took my first shot with a shotgun, when the recoil knocked me to the ground, I gave you all of the sordid details of how I planned my little Mario Party with my idiot friends; in short, I tell it like it is, whether I look like a moron or not. The PS2's arrival did not excite me as much as other systems in the past. And I know why. This past May, I spent the best part of 3 days in LA playing all of the latest PS2 games. In truth, I did not play one game that made me say, "I must have this system to play this game." Sorry, but that's the truth. I can tell you though that upcoming Dreamcast titles like Jet Grind Radio, NFL2K1, Shen Mue, Sonic 2 and Seaman got me hyped, but nothing on the PS2 did it for me. Now don't get me wrong, I love my PSX as much as the next guy, but the PS2 really proved nothing to me.

Let us take an honest look at this exciting new gaming console. As you know, I won't spare it's feelings nor will I ignore it's achievements.

The PS2 Package

When you open the PS2 box, you will find a PS2, a Dual Shock 2 Controller and the necessary hookups. You will not find a game, or even a demo disk. That would have been too nice a gesture for plunking down mucho donero. You won't find an 8 MB Memory Card either. That'll set you back close to $35 in the US. You heard me. $35.00 for a memory card! As I live in Canada, my Memory Card set me back almost $60 after all of the taxes. The bundle packs of extra controllers, memory card and multi-tap that Sony mentioned at their Press Conference that was to retail for $35 US was clearly BS. Thanks for nothing, liars. Needless to say, buying the PS2 system, 1 game, an extra controller and a memory card, will set you back a pretty penny, even if you buy it at retail. If you are buying on eBay, you better have ID in your wallet that has the name Bill Gates on it.

The PS2 Machine

This is a nice looking piece of home equipment. It looks thin and sleek, especially if placed in the vertical setting. It looks like part of a home stereo and that was no accident on Sony's part. They wanted to elevate the PS2 from child's toy to necessary home device, and what better way to make sales then to have both child and parent (mostly father perhaps) clamoring for the same item? When was the last time your mom or dad wanted the same thing you wanted for Christmas? I rest my case. The biggest disappointment is the lack of 4 controller slots. That was just plain cheap on Sony's part, forcing us to buy a multi-tap unit for another $35. They could have installed two more ports and charged us an extra $20, who cares? On a really, really bad note, we've been hearing from people who have bought defective PS2 units, that break after a short period of time. If waiting in line or paying scads of cash on eBay wasn't bad enough, now you get stuck with a defective model. Sony is making the Sega Saturn launch look like a success in comparison. If you do have a defective PS2, Sony says it will be awhile before you get another one. That's gotta hurt.

The PS2 DVD Ability

This is one of the PS2's biggest selling features. A lot of people look at the PS2 as a Sony DVD and CD player, that plays PSX games and is also the most powerful gaming system available. To them it's DVD first and the extras later. That's cool. I did not purchase a DVD player for the last year and a half because I knew the PS2 would have DVD capability. I have been taking advantage of the fact and have rented a few DVD's with my wife. She doesn't care about all of the extras that come on DVD's now. That confuses the little woman. Personally, I love it. Give me more of anything and I'll take it, and if you've seen the size of my pants lately, that includes taking more pie. People were complaining about using the Dual Shock 2 as a "remote" for the DVD. Personally, it works great to me, and I can't understand what the fuss is about. I didn't even read the manual, nor had I ever used a DVD player before. You might say, "But John, you are the smartest man in the universe, of course YOU could figure it out." Well, thanks for the compliments, although I think you are exaggerating a tad. But seriously, I am a big dummy. Come on, I'm a game reviewer for goodness sake! I'm lucky if I can figure out how to open a bag of Doritos, never mind a DVD player. The controller works just fine. Don't be rushing out to buy another remote. Besides Interact screwed up their remote somehow. I didn't read the release. Sorry I can't be of more help. The DVD features all of the functions you would find on a stand alone DVD player. At least, I think it does. Remember, I've never used a DVD before. You can pause, fast forward, select different camera angles (if the movie supports this feature), run ahead by chapters, select various languages; the whole nine yards.

The PS2 CD Player

Unless your PS2 is hooked directly into a home theater system or some other form of audio enhancement, your enjoyment of the CD function will be directly proportionate to the quality of your stereo. I've run into a few problems with it recognizing burnt audio CD's, but for the most part, it functions well. I didn't buy the PS2 for this feature as everything these days comes with a CD player. My pants have a CD player built into them. Seriously. I wonder if it's okay to have a laser so close to my, uh, let's change the subject. OW! Bad idea! Bad idea!

The PS2 Software Library

PS2 launch titles are a mixed bag. Some games are great, some are average and some suck. That's the problem with wanting a lot of software available at launch; some projects get rushed. As our review section on CCC, goes into more depth concerning the quality of the software, stop there and peruse until grumpy old Dave chases you away, telling you CCC is not a lending library. I will say this, the PS2 will be a great gaming system, eventually, but it isn't one at this point in time.

The PS2 Peripherals

Since you only get one Dual Shock, you'll have to buy another if you want to play two player games. Want to play 4 play or more? You'll have to buy the Multi-Tap and more controllers. Want to save your game? You'll have to buy the PS2 Memory Card. Now it does have 8 MB, which is the same amount of RAM my computer had in 1993. Scary. Want your PS2 to stand up vertically? You'll have to buy the Vertical Stand? Hook up to S-Video? You know the drill. Of course we know everything is extra in this day and age, and that is simply to keep the initial cost of the unit down. That way everyone thinks that they'll be getting a PS2 for $299. Which they are. Now if they actually want to do anything useful with that thing, they'll have to shell out at least another $100+. That $299 suddenly turns into much more and if you are Canadian, turns into your paycheck plus whatever Big Tony okays you on loan.

A lot of people have asked me why Sony didn't change the controller. Well, they did slightly. They made the buttons analog, which means that pressure applied to the buttons will have different effects in games that take advantage of this feature. Does it affect gameplay at all? No. It doesn't feel any different. As for not changing the design, I think it's clear that Sony thinks that the Dual Shock was indeed a great tool, so why screw with it? I tend to agree. The Dual Shock controller for PSX was the best joystick ever made for a console. It's small, sleek and allows multiple gameplay options. I'm glad to see it's return on this system.

Many people, including myself, almost passed out when I found out how much the memory cards were. The fact that they are 8 MB is certainly handy, meaning you won't be needing to buy another for probably quite awhile. This in effect, diminishes the sale of third party memory cards as Sony's 8 MB card will last you. Of course that doesn't stop third party developers from bringing out a cheaper 8 MB card. So the process continues anyway. For those who don't know, the PSX card will work in the PS2, but only for PSX games, and vice versa.

The PSX Gameplay Feature

The other big selling feature of the PS2 is backward compatibility with older PSX titles. This function clinched the deal in many parents' mind. Knowing they don't have to relegate already owned PSX titles to the garage sale box, makes parents more heartily accept the transition from one system to the other. Not only does the PS2 play the current library of titles on the PlayStation, but it also helps speed up load times and smoothes out textures, making older games look much nicer. These features must be turned on at the System screen. Personally, I love this feature almost more than playing the new PS2 games. If you throw on a graphically amazing PSX title like R Type 4 or Soul Reaver, you'll be amazed at how good those PSX games can appear. R Type 4 (Ridge Racer 4) looked beautiful and considering the game plays a million times better then Ridge Racer V for the PS2, it's a real treat!

For those people out there who are either horrifyingly optimistic or horrifyingly dumb, the original PlayStation or the current PSone, WILL NOT PLAY PS2 GAMES. I REPEAT: IT WILL NOT PLAY PS2 GAMES! THE PS2 WILL PLAY PSX GAMES BUT NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. We get people e-mailing us questions like this and it really just serves to further diminish my opinion of the evolution of the human race. I'm sorry, but asking if the PlayStation will play PS2 games is perhaps the stupidest question I've ever been asked, next to, "Are you okay?" after I fell 30 feet from a ladder and landed on my face. I hope I cleared up this little confusion in my usual tactful and polite way.

Final Thoughts on the PS2

I cannot fault Sony for attempting to make the PS2 all things to all people. It's great that it's a DVD, CD, PSX and PS2 all rolled into one. Not only that but it performs all of its functions expertly and intuitively for the most part. The PS2 software is hit and miss and in my opinion, cannot compare to what the Dreamcast is offering right now. If you didn't get a PS2, you know that you won't be getting one for awhile. Wal-Mart is forecasting March or April for people who aren't on the "list". That sucks. Sony should be really taken to task for either screwing up this launch, or pretending that there is a shortage. In that sense, it's wonderful that I have a PS2 and no longer have to wait in uncertainty as to whether I will be a part of the "in-club" at school or work that own one. Personally I couldn't care less. I need a PS2 because of my job right now. If I didn't, I can tell you in all honesty, I wouldn't have went out of my way to buy one at this point in time. And for me to say that, is strange, as I have chomped at the bit to get almost every launch system on day one (excluding Sega CD, Virtual Boy, Atari Jaguar and 3DO. It seems I have a knack for guessing crap systems). Is this a sign that the PS2 will tank because John Doe doesn't really want one? Yes. No, wait I'm just kidding. All I'm saying is "Don't panic". You really aren't missing anything at this point. Sit back and relax. There is no reason to spend a zillion dollars trying to get this system. You will get one. It may not be tomorrow, but eventually you will get one. That's how Sony makes money. They sell you a system (that they lose money on) to get you to buy software and peripherals that they do make money on. They want your money, just like Sega and Nintendo and even me, but I haven't figured out a way to get my hands on it yet, that doesn't involve busting into your house when you aren't home. If the money is burning a hole in your pocket, buy a Dreamcast. The games are solid and you'll find enough software to tide you over. Heck you can even play on-line! By the time PS2's are plentiful, maybe you'll have enough saved to buy one! In short, the PS2 is good, but it's got quite a ways to go before I call it great.

Screen Shot comparisons using PS2 Smooth Textures feature. Look for the smooth road textures in both Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 and Driver 2. In the Spider-Man shots, notice how the backgrounds are outlined and the character models are sharper.






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